DESTROYED. The best word to describe the current situation in Marawi City. Since May 23rd last year, history has documented a new record that Marawi is now experiencing the hard and bitter phase following the assaults initiated by a militant group, more or less a radical Islamic troop. The assault occurred due to the Philippines military armies who were in search of a Daesh leader.
Following the conflict, it has sacrificed a total number of at least 165 armies and police officers as well as 45 residents living in the area while 300,000 people were classified as refugees. According to a report written on a local newspaper, Utusan Malaysia, the conflict was actually under anticipation following the environmental area of Mindanao which seen as a ‘prospective’ location for the militant to build a fortress.
The outcome of that incident had captured the attention of many societies, primarily non-government organisations (NGO) specialising in humanitarian works. Islamic Relief Malaysia (IRM) as an international NGO became one of the first to act on top of the others in tackling the issue. Just recently, IRM alongside Ukhuwah 4 Ummah (U4U) and a line of Malaysian local celebrities have efficaciously launched a humanitarian campaign, Squad Celebrity Global Volunteers Project in four countries. Indirectly, Marawi is one those selected locations involved in the mentioned project.
Last April, IRM sent a group of activists and squad to delve into the hardship of people in Marawi City whom were announced as refugees. Mohd Ridzuan Othman, one of the squads during the humanitarian mission made a few notes to share his experience on the present environmental situation in the destroyed city. He said, Marawi was once a city accommodated by elitists, mainly those who had businesses in the sector of agriculture.
Upon arrival in Marawi, the first thing ever learned was getting pumped up with the language that must be well taken care at all cost as there are several forbidden words such as a few names of militant groups and some sensitive terms in Tagalog. “Such words are completely disallowed to be spoken out as we were told that the residents are sensitive,” he said gently in an interview.
Previously, Marawi is formerly known as a well-known Islamic city but now left abandoned without any proper religious teachings. Majority of the refugees in the area are still practicing Islam, however, the application in daily life is slowly fading. What’s more to say when Muslim residents are required to register a second name for official affairs as Islamic names are denied.
“Marawi City is labelled as ground-zero and Most Affected Area (MAA),” Ridzuan added. It is labelled in such category as a result of war that happened over the location last year. To date, the area is under control of armed forces and tanks that monitor very strictly. According to a news report, the militant group was seen to exploit Marawi as a conflicting tool between Islam and Christianity in an effort to gain supports from the Muslim community. Apart from that, the group desired to ‘clean up’ Syiah, Christian, and Musyriqin out of Marawi. Ridzuan also mentioned that there are still corpses not found in the wreckages.
Nevertheless, the humanitarian squad for Marawi also faced another threat from the local citizen. “The incident happened the moment we finished performing Zuhur prayer at an institution. We were informed that there were several residents who attempted to threaten us and did not welcome our presence in the country.” Following that incident, they had to ignore their plans and the squad was brought out of that place for security reasons.
The humanitarian squad in Marawi also had the opportunity to interact with displaced people at Bito Buadi Itowa Camp. Here, their presence was contentedly greeted with ‘Song for Marawi’ sang by a group of kids. Just by looking at their face, it expels the light of hope that they only desire is to have a place called shelter. Education is one of the issues identified during their visit. As a city consisting of many Muslims, the people in that area believe that education is the best asset that should be offered, especially basic teaching of Islam since the practice is not being upheld.
For Ridzuan, he did not expect Marawi would appear that worse in the first place and that of the situation is comparable with the one in Syria. He further added, due to a different creed of faith, one whole province is affected. Through this humanitarian mission, each of them hopes that the issue in Marawi could pull the attention of many eyes in the outside world.